Miss Information: She needs space, but how can I keep from pining away for her?

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She needs space, but how can I keep from pining away for her?

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Dear Miss Info,

I went out on a date with a friend's sister about six months ago and we had a fantastic time together. Great conversation, wonderful chemistry. We went on several dates after that and totally enjoyed each other's company. The issue is she just got divorced after three years of marriage. The divorce was messy — cheating, a love child, etc. — and now she's doing some traveling to clear her head. We went out a few days before she left. I told her that I liked her a lot, but knew she wasn't in the right place right now for a relationship, and that when and if she was ready, I would be around. I also told her I didn't want to put any pressure on her given all the other crap she's dealing with, and that she could do with this information as she willed. My question is this: I am still going out on dates and I'm wondering what's the best way to present myself truthfully to another woman, without saying I'm waiting on someone else? I just don't want to hurt anyone or be reckless with their feelings, but I do know where my head and heart are. I'm also not trying just to have flings, but I feel like I shouldn't not go out and date, right? — Dating N Waiting

Dear Dating N Waiting,

Ah, yes, the noble Gentleman Caller sitting at home, chin in hands, staring out the window at the cold and rainy evening, his sighs audible over the sounds of the wood hearth and the ticking of the grandfather clock. It's the stuff romance novels are made of.

Oh wait, no, "Sexy Lord with Horse and Carriage" is the star of romance novels; "Devoted Piner" isn't. Waiting for her is essentially making a doormat of yourself, and that's thoroughly unattractive. Live your life! When she gets back with a clearer head, perhaps you'll pick up right where you left off, and you'll hold hands and run off into the sunset. But it's important that, when she asks you, "So what have you been up to for the last six months?" you be able to answer her. Date other women. Go out with your friends. Watch movies, take up square dancing, build model trains. Good God, don't just sit and pine. Most women want independent partners with lives of their own, not lapdogs. If she returns and finds out you've just been sighing and drinking tea the whole time, it will probably set off alarm bells in her head.

Listen, it's great that you and this girl hit it off. And it's good that you're sensitive to her painful and dicey situation. But it also sounds like you've gone so far out of your way to be chivalrous that you've totally given up your sense of yourself. And where is she in this story? What were her reactions? Did she want you to wait? A relationship is a give-and-take, DnW, not a series of one-sided sacrifices. Don't limit yourself because of her. Who knows what you'll stumble upon while she's gone?

Live your life as if she weren't in the picture — because right now, emotionally and geographically, she isn't. When she returns, perhaps you'll be able to share your respective travel stories — but yours need to be something other than musings on the back of her head as she walks away. 

Dear Miss Information,

My job situation is fairly terrible. I'm smart, competent, and qualified, but I'm presently stuck in a complicated web of freelance and part-time work to make ends meet. Oh, and I tend bar. At a Chili's. Oh, the indiginity. I keep telling myself it's a temporary and common situation, and I keep sending out my resumes.

My romantic life is the very opposite of terrible. Three months ago, I met a guy. A really, really great guy. We spent that whole weekend together alternating between fantastic sex and fantastic conversation. As I was gathering my stuff to leave late Sunday night, I asked what he did. It was conversational! Organic! I swear! I was surprised to learn that he's one of the founders of an organization I've long dreamed of working for and have sent, oh, twenty resumes to. My brain was a little addled by endorphins at the time, and I just thought of the coincidence as proof of the benevolence of the universe or something.

Now that we've been dating for a while, the job thing's gotten to be a problem. The boyfriend has offered to write me a letter of recommendation if I want to apply for a particular opening at his organization. Literally hundreds of people apply for their posted jobs. This recommendation wouldn't be a guarantee of a position, but it would put me on very good footing. Maybe put me on a list of three candidates instead of three hundred. I would be completely thrilled by his offer — if we weren't sleeping together.

As it is, I'm afraid that things'll become awkward if I don't get the job. And I'm afraid if I do get the job I'll soon become known as the girl who got the job by sleeping with the boss. Or, we'll break up someday and I'll have the pleasure of working in a cubicle down the hall from my ex-boyfriend's corner office. But I literally cannot imagine a job I'd want more than this one. If I were six years old, I would draw this job in crayon and surround it with hearts. Then again I'd draw this boy and surround him with hearts too. The boyfriend thinks it's no big deal, but I think he's only saying that because he's never been a woman and subject to questions of competency based on skirt length or dating habits. — Angsty Feminist


Dear Angsty Feminist,

Normally, I'd cut such a lengthy letter down a bit, but I didn't have the heart to — because it's just so good. By the end, I was practically cheering you on. Go, Angsty! Show 'em! Hemlines and competency, grr! Feminism! Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air! Jobs! But allow me to reel myself in, because I, too, have a job to do.

This is a delicate situation, and all of your weighing of pros and cons is absolutely spot-on. A less careful person would have screeched, "A free ride! Sweet!" and sprinted to the bank. But you are putting a lot of hard thought into it, which means you won't act rashly. This bodes well for both your career and your relationship. Judging from your tone, you also seem pretty dead-set on this job. Even though you have a list of reasons why it may not work out, it seems clear that you want to go for it. That instict is worth trusting.

It's encouraging that your boyfriend thinks this is "no big deal," simply because it means he thinks highly of you and feels secure in your relationship. Would he feel comfortable recommending you if he had doubts about either? Probably not. It's great that you've discussed the situation with him; I suggest you go one step further, and sit him down to make sure you're on the same page.

Tell him you're strongly considering taking his recommendation. Tell him how perfect this job is. Tell him how sick you are of all your clothes smelling like a fucking Bloomin' Onion. Then lay out the possible future: "If I get the job, we will be coworkers. Co — 'together.' Workers — 'those who work.'" Maybe draw a few diagrams or pull up a PowerPoint slide or two. (You know, for that professional edge.) See what his reaction is. Talk through possible sticking points ("Would you feel uncomfortable if you had to give me direction in work? Would it be weird if I was at post-work happy hour?", etc.)

Then — as uncomfortable and anti-feminist as it may feel — consider adding, "How serious are we?" Because, as painfully awkward as the "are we for real?" conversation can be, in this situation it's pretty much a necessity. You are clearly head-over-heels for him; if he's anything less than that for you, you want to know now, rather than six months from now when he announces that he "needs space" and you're suddenly charged with buying the ice-cream cake for his office birthday party.

This is a decision you guys should make together. If he's going to recommend you, it's important you be on the same page. Think of it as "informed consent." Tell him your concerns, and see what he says to alleviate them. If he vouches for you, you want him to be on board and enthusiastic for all of it: seeing you in the hallways, in meetings, on the train home. Then, if you two are in sync, go for it and make no apologies.

Once you get the job, sure, it's entirely possible your coworkers may gossip. But once you prove your competence, dedication, and charisma, all of that chatter will go away. Keep your office identity strictly separate from your boyfriend's, and you'll be fine. After all, his recommendation may get your résumé to the top of the pile, but your qualifications and intelligence will get you the job. Don't lose sight of that.

In short, Angsty Feminist: I think you're gonna make it after all.